The slogan “New Orleans: Imagine it Clean” graces the sides of garbage cans in the French Quarter, a reminder that the city’s government once implored residents to pick up after themselves.
Now, residents are becoming increasingly frustrated by the city’s own failure to collect the growing mounds of fly-infested garbage that have lined the streets since Hurricane Katrina struck six weeks ago.
“It’s getting to be ridiculous,” said Michael Brown, 54, as he stood beside a pile of refrigerators, used clothes, ruined furniture and trash cans buzzing with flies outside his home in New Orleans’ Irish Channel neighborhood.
“I see them picking up the trees, but it’s the garbage we need to get picked up now,” said Brown, a maintenance worker at a home for the elderly who said he sprinkles bleach on the trash every night to help contain both the flies and the stench.
Mayor Ray Nagin on Monday told a meeting of his “Bring Back New Orleans” commission that the city was working toward putting a once-a-week garbage collection schedule in place, but did not say when that might happen.
At the same meeting, New Orleans city attorney Sherry Landry said trash collection in certain areas of the city was being taken care of as residents were allowed to come back.
“As we’re bringing up new ZIP codes they’re targeting those areas, so at this point in time we’re not able to give you specific collection days,” Landry said, adding that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Federal Emergency Management Agency had agreed to take over garbage collection because the hard-hit city does not have “a ready source of operating funds.”
Tons of waste already removed
A spokeswoman for the corps, Mary Beth Hudson, said it had removed 1,948 tons of household waste since the hurricane struck and that trash was being collected on Fridays.
But in neighborhoods such as Uptown, where residents have been allowed back for about two weeks, garbage has not been picked up since Katrina hit on Aug. 29.
“I know the city’s having trouble, but it looks like they forgot about us,” said an 83-year-old woman who declined to be named because her son is a police officer for the city.
“I’ve been bitten by stuff from that,” she added, sticking out a swollen left foot as she pointed toward a mountain of garbage buzzing with flies.
Residential neighborhoods are not the only place where garbage removal has been slow. Nagin said on Monday that 26,000 tons of decaying chicken carcasses were sitting at the city’s port.
The Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals said adequate trash collection would be a key consideration in its inspections of restaurants and other businesses that wish to reopen in New Orleans.
“They have to have an appropriate way of getting their trash picked up and removed from the facility,” department spokeswoman Kristen Meyer said.